Someone has posted an entry on a blog that contains my e-mail address and a
picture of me. I can not find this info and people are sending me e-mails
asking to date me. I am married and have never put a blog on the internet like
this. This is causing problems in my marriage. I just want to find this and
delete it. What do I do?
Sadly, this kind of harassment isn’t all that uncommon on the internet,
basically because it’s so easy to do. Normally I see it among teenagers or kids
with nothing better to do.
It’s also one of the reasons I firmly believe that the days of having a
single email address are over. As part of maintaining our privacy for both
this, and things like spam, I advocate a multiple-email address strategy that
would allow you to discard the email address being used in this harassment.
More on that in my article over on TamingEmail.com: How many email addresses do you need?.
Your options on what to do next are limited.
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If you truly cannot find the location that your email address has been
posted, then, to be honest, I’m not sure what you can do, other than change
your email address, and completely delete or ignore the old one. It’s
extreme, but it reminds me of similar situations via telephone where people
who’ve been receiving threatening phone calls change to an unlisted number.
It works, simply because that old email address is no longer you.
However, I would not give up trying to find the source, because once you
have it there are a couple more steps you can try.
First, I don’t know the nature of the emails you’re getting, but if you feel
comfortable with it, explain the situation and ask the sender where they found
your email address. This must be done with caution, and only if you
feel comfortable doing so. (I’ll also talk about involving law enforcement in a
second, and this might be a step that they would help with.)
Keep searching. Use several search engines; Google, MSN, Yahoo, Ask.com, and
search for your email address. Use one or more of the blog-specific search
engines such as technorati. It’s possible that the site containing the address
will eventually be indexed by one or more of them, at which point you can find
out exactly where it is.
Once you do, you should immediately raise the issue to site owner, insisting
that they remove the post. If you don’t get satisfaction, you can also try
raising the issue to the ISP providing the server space for the site. You can
locate the ISP by performing a search on the IP address at http://whois.arin.net.
Now I do have to caution you that even if the post is removed, the memory
may linger. For example, it’s possible that other sites will have copied the
post. Archival sites, such as archive.org, do on so purpose to maintain archive
“snapshots” of the internet. Search sites often retain a cached copy of pages
for some time. And some blogs often generate their own content by simply
slurping up the content of other blogs. You can certainly keep searching, and
keep requesting that the content be removed each time you find it, but in my
opinion it’s a losing battle.
I often recommend contacting the authorities in a case like this. Depending
on the nature of the email that you’re receiving as a result, they may take it
quite seriously. The problem is that depending on the specific authorities you
contact – local police, FBI, others – they may simply not be technically savvy
enough to deal with the situation, or they may simply not have the resources to
prioritize your issue to actually get attention. But I would definitely
consider this approach, if only to formally record the issue.
In the end you may have little practical recourse. Depending on the
specifics of what’s happening, you can either treat it like spam, and delete
the objectionable email as it arrives, or you can change your email address and
stop paying attention to that old address completely. Both have their